Major league baseball (which just started its season this week) is considered the national pastime. But it’s also a curious leading indicator for the impending doom of some of North America’s greatest tree species.

You see, baseball bats used to be made out of elm and chestnut wood — both tree species that have been nearly wiped out by disease. Now the favored bat wood of baseball — currently, white ash — is in danger from being wiped out by the invasive emerald ash borer, which has swept the United States from Michigan to Maryland.

And the problem has no real solution, according to a recent Men’s Journal article that quotes Frank Lowenstein, an invasive species specialist with The Nature Conservancy:

“Nonnative pests harm our trees in ways native insects do not…Trees have no resistance, and predators don’t feed on them, meaning they cannot be wiped out.”

The only hope is to quarantine the insect by asking people not to transport firewood, according to the article. It doesn’t seem to have worked so far. In a couple of years, we might be hearing the ping of aluminum instead of the crack of wood in ballparks everywhere…that is, in the couple of fleeting silent moments in which those ballparks aren’t playing annoying loud music and commercials.

(Image: Emerald ash borer. Credit David Cappaert/USDA.)

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  1. How and when was the ash borer brought to the US?

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